About Neighborhoods Now
In collaboration with the Urban Design Forum, Neighborhoods Now connects neighborhoods hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic with leading design firms. In Bed-Stuy, Jackson Heights, Kingsbridge, and Washington Heights, these working groups are collaborating to develop safe and effective reopening strategies.
The outcomes are a set of design recommendations, prototypes, and installations empowering communities to respond to their immediate needs, while contributing to the city-wide strategy on pandemic response. In some neighborhoods, prototypes have already been implemented, and Van Alen and Urban Design Forum are actively fundraising to support additional implementation.
Learn more about Neighborhoods Now.
Working Groups ↓

Community Partner: Community League of the Heights (CLOTH)

Coordinating Firm: Arup

Supporting Firms: Design Advocates (Barker Associates Architecture Office, Abruzzo Bodziak Architects, Office of Architecture, Overlay Office, Parc Office, Smith & Sauer); GenslerStantecWoods Bagot

Proposal ↓

CLOTH identified the following priorities:

  • Safe extension of restaurants into the street with protection from traffic
  • Configuration of public spaces to allow for socially-distanced activities
  • Creative communication of COVID-19 safety guidelines in public spaces
  • Use of available interior and outdoor spaces for educational programs
  • Improved coordination with owners of vacant storefronts to facilitate temporary uses and activities


Considering the many needs of outdoor dining through the city’s Open Restaurants program, the working group proposes low-cost, easily movable barricades with built-in waste management, signage, and ventilated canopy designs to retain much-needed table space in the colder months. Their proposal also includes flexible retail display systems using off-the-shelf materials and an educational “kits of parts” for safe outdoor education at significantly lower cost than existing public space kits.

Over the summer, the CLOTH working group installed one of their outdoor dining prototypes at Tropical Rotisserie Kitchen on Sedgwick Avenue. They are now also sourcing materials for modular and movable outdoor furniture, barriers, and planters.

See the full Washington Heights working group’s report (PDF)

The use of the information contained in this proposal document, “Neighborhoods Now Washington Heights,” is at the sole risk of the user, and the Urban Design Forum shall not be responsible for, or liable in any way for, the accuracy, completeness or any other matter with respect to the contents herein. The user hereby assumes all risks of the use of the information, and irrevocably and unconditionally waives, releases and discharges the Urban Design Forum and its direct and indirect members, directors, officers, employees, agents, affiliates, volunteers and representatives, from any and all liability of any kind or nature whatsoever, in connection with the matters contained herein, and the use of the information contained herein.
Caption: Designs for safely extending restaurant seating areas into the street. Courtesy: Arup